×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Showrunner Shuffle: Last Minute Departures Explained by Booming TV Biz

The 2015-16 television season has yet to begin, but high drama is already taking place behind the scenes. With less than one month until new shows premiere, four network series have seen their showrunners exit.

In the run-up to the fall season, NBC’s “Chicago Med,” Fox’s “The Grinder” and ABC’s “Blood & Oil” and “The Catch” have all parted ways with the original showrunners.

Why the sudden shuffle? In this era of “too much TV” — as FX Networks chief John Landgraf pointed out at this summer’s Television Critics’ Assn. press tour — insiders report the fallout is serious, with most veteran showrunners already booked on one of the 400-plus shows on air.

“Everyone is trying to jockey for position,” said Landgraf, giving a sobering assessment of the state of the TV biz. “We’re playing a game of musical chairs, and they’re starting to take away chairs.”

An industry insider tells Variety, “The business is going through some growing pains in terms of scarcity. There’s more to go around than people available.”

Another consequence of the content glut: Not only is the talent pool shallow, but networks are feeling even more challenged to stay ahead of the competition — on an ever-growing array of platforms.

There’s also increased scrutiny, along with less patience among programmers; letting a show marinate and find an audience is a thing of the past.

Agency types note there’s an enormous amount of pressure on the nets. Part of avoiding the risk of failure is making sure the head honcho is the best fit. “Showrunners are the CEOs of multimillion-dollar enterprises,” one agent points out.

Less-experienced creatives may get the opportunity to sit atop a new show’s throne, but they may not always be fit to rule. That’s where last-minute transitions come in, with network and studio execs forced to face the tough realization that it’s one thing to write a pilot, but a very different thing to run the whole show.

“We need to create a stronger pipeline for the next generation of showrunners,” that same agent adds.

In the case of “The Catch,” co-showrunners and creators Jennifer Schuur and Josh Reims walked away from the midseason project due to “creative differences.” Sources say exec producers are eying Allan Heinberg, who’s well-oiled in the Shondaland machine, having worked on “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The exit of Schuur — whose producing credits include “Hannibal” — could be a result of networks taking more pitches from young writers who, despite substantial talent, just don’t have the experience of running a show on a weekly timetable.

Seasoned showrunners say that an abrupt change is incredibly hard to pull off when a series is well into production and the clock is ticking on delivery dates.

“When a showrunner is let go because the network or studio decides the creative direction of the show isn’t working in the episodes they’ve seen so far — that’s disastrous. It means all the work you’ve done but haven’t shot yet is all going to be thrown away,” said Bill Lawrence, the comedy honcho who has juggled multiple series in recent years, including NBC’s “Undateable” and CBS actioner “Rush Hour” for the coming midseason. “It’s very rare that a drama or comedy can go on a different creative course successfully without taking three months off. By the time they fire the showrunner, the die is cast and it speaks to disaster.”

ABC’s “Blood & Oil,” created by Josh Pate, who has never run a series solo, had lined up Cynthia Cidre as the showrunner, hoping her experience on “Dallas” would translate. But something clearly didn’t click. Though she’ll remain on the Don Johnson-starrer as an exec producer, “No Ordinary Family” creator Jon Harmon Feldman, who has a relationship with the network, took the reins. Feldman had been brought on as a consultant when it was determined that Cidre, Pate and non-writing exec producer Tony Krantz weren’t leading the show effectively, and he was handed the show within three days.

Meanwhile, veteran producer Greg Malins departed “The Grinder,” Fox’s Rob Lowe sitcom. Sources tell Variety that Malins and creators Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul had different visions. It can be tricky when networks marry experienced showrunners with greener writers.

TV lit agents have noted that with so many platforms, creators are coming from various backgrounds, which can result in less-organic marriages. For “Grinder,” this time, Fox sided with the newbies.

One show that will likely get through the fire without many burns is Dick Wolf’s “Chicago Med,” which saw the departure of “CSI” alum Andrew Dettmann. The showrunner slot was quickly filled by established duo Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov (“The Sopranos”), but even without the quick switch, the medical drama probably would have fared well, with a proven producing team accustomed to the ins and outs of Wolf’s franchises.

Though these showrunners are newly unemployed, it likely won’t be long until another gig opens up given the wealth of programming.

“There are complexities with staffing, but any ecosystem where there are new and exciting opportunities creates healthy competition,” an agent says optimistically.

More TV

  • Sharon Case from The Young and

    NATAS Announces 2019 Daytime Emmys Pre-Nominations for Drama Performer Categories

    The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences have announced the pre-nominations for all of the drama performer categories ahead of the 46th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards. “The Young and the Restless” lead the pre-nominations with 21 candidates, but “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives” are close behind with 20 and 19 candidates, respectively. [...]

  • Childrens Hospital

    'Childrens Hospital' Team Reunites at Netflix for Comedy Series 'Medical Police'

    The team behind the Adult Swim series “Childrens Hospital” has come back together at Netflix. The streamer has ordered 10 thirty-minute episodes of a new scripted series called “Medical Police,” which is written and executive produced by Rob Corddry, Krister Johnson, Jonathan Stern, David Wain. In addition to his onscreen role, Corddry created “Childrens Hospital,” [...]

  • mike colter luke cage portrait

    'Luke Cage' Alum Mike Colter Joins CBS Drama Pilot 'Evil'

    Mike Colter has been cast in a lead role in the CBS drama pilot “Evil” from Robert and Michelle King, Variety has learned. Colter will play David DaCosta, a Catholic priest in training, tasked by the Church to assess unexplained phenomena to see if there is a supernatural or scientific explanation. He joins previously announced [...]

  • Watch First Trailer for Motley Crue

    Watch First Trailer for Motley Crue Biopic 'The Dirt'

    Netflix has dropped the first trailer for its Motley Crue biopic “The Dirt” — based on Neil Strauss’ best-selling history of the legendarily bad-behaved ‘80s metal icons — and it looks like the film pulls no punches in terms of the band’s famously sordid history. In this two-minute trailer, we get glimpses of singer Vince [...]

  • man-in-the-high-castle-season-two-rufus-sewell-amazon

    Amazon's 'The Man in the High Castle' to End With Fourth Season

    “The Man in the High Castle” is coming to an end. Amazon Prime Video said Tuesday that the dystopian alt-history series will end with its fourth season, which will premiere in the fall. “It has been a great privilege to work alongside our extraordinary ‘High Castle’ team, in partnership with David Zucker and Scott Free, [...]

  • ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the

    MyFrenchFilmFestival Prizes ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the Right Shape’

    Actress-director Noémie Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow And Thereafter,” a heartfelt homage to the director’s own mother, and Fabien Gorgeart’s “Diane Has the Right Shape,” about one woman’s surrogate motherhood, both won big at the 2019 UniFrance MyFrenchFilmFestival which skewed female in its winners and viewership, making particularly notable inroads into South East Asia and Latin America. Opening [...]

  • Lara Logan and CBS News Have

    Lara Logan and CBS News Have Parted Ways

    Lara Logan, the journalist who gained wider renown covering war-torn spots in the Middle East for CBS News, is no longer with the network and has not been for several months. The split, disclosed as the result of Logan making an appearance over the weekend on a podcast in which she suggested news consumers ought [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content